November 29, 2010
You could be sure that it wouldn't take long for
Maverick Carter unnamed sources to lash back in LeBron James'(notes) defense, especially in the wake of the team's disappointing start, and the goofball BumpGate controversy.
In speaking with ESPN's Chris Broussard,
Carter the source had this to say about Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's relationship with the team:
"He's jumping on them," one source said. "If anything, he's been too tough on them. Everybody knows LeBron is playful and likes to joke around, but Spoelstra told him in front of the whole team that he has to get more serious. The players couldn't believe it. They feel like Spoelstra's not letting them be themselves."
Carter The source went on to point out that Spoelstra singled James out during a recent shootaround, telling the Heat star that he couldn't "tell when you're serious."
Now, all this is being tossed out there to make Spoelstra look bad, as he struggles to right Miami's ship, but all this nonsense is doing is making Spoelstra look better. Of course James doesn't take these things as seriously as he should, not when he's setting up parties and appearances in clubs following road games, or taking whole possessions off to float around the perimeter. This sort of criticism, something he never got in Cleveland, is exactly what he needs.
Spoelstra doesn't need help in looking bad. Though the Heat are ranked highly offensively on sheer one-on-one talent alone, Spoelstra is still the guy calling for simplified 1/5 screen-and-rolls -- sometimes two on the same play once the first option doesn't work -- late in close games, coming out of a timeout. Spoelstra is the guy who was handed three of the best offensive players at their respective positions (statistically last season), and watched as each has regressed significantly within his obvious offensive schemes.
And Spoelstra looks even worse while trying to laugh off BumpGate as something typical, as he did Monday morning:
Spoelstra said he "didn't even notice" the bump until it was mentioned after the game.
"Coming out of the timeout, it's a pinball game. I'm colliding into a lot of people. So it's probably a perfect case of overspeculation from this team," he said Monday.
"I was fine with that timeout. The fact that guys are not happy about the play, tempers rose, you could see the fire and passion in people's eyes. That's the way it should be," he added. "None of us should be happy about what was going on in the third quarter and taking it in stride."
Come on, Erik.
It's fair to say that I've watched a lot of NBA basketball through the years, and have seen my fair share of angry teams skulking back to the bench after a timeout. I never -- NEVER -- see that sort of bump from a player to coach. Is it wrong to get up in arms about it? Sure. Let's not go crazy because a coddled, churlish athlete acted the part. But let's also not pretend that this is a typical or even infrequent occurrence.
Spoelstra is not doing his job when it comes to getting the most out of the players that he's been put in charge of. But he is right to call out Miami's Big Three, each of whom have been the biggest underachievers on this team. Not the point guards, not the big men, and not the coaching staff.
If LeBron doesn't have to dominate the ball offensively, then he needs to go nuts defensively and on the glass. If Dwyane Wade(notes) isn't confident in his shot, or if he should be shooting a particular shot as opposed to James, then he needs to find a way to get to the line, as has long been his custom. And if Chris Bosh(notes) doesn't even sniff the ball during a play, then he needs to crash the offensive glass, and earn his team extra possessions. None of them are giving extra, when it's obvious that the team is at nearly .500 just because the Big Three are taking turns giving what they gave while all alone in Miami, Toronto and Cleveland. And winning basketball doesn't work this way.
Maverick Carter Chris Broussard's sources can gripe all they want about Spoelstra taking his frustrations out on the superstars, but he's right to question their commitment. There's no reason James should have just two double-figure rebound games, so far. There's no reason Wade should be playing the sort of defense he's playing, and there's no reason Chris Bosh's rebound percentage should have dropped to a mark below the percent he came through with as a 19-year-old rookie.
Keep snivelin', sources. You're going to make a martyr out of Spoelstra yet.